Mikel Arteta says Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is on the mend but the striker won’t be available for tomorrow’s Carabao Cup quarter-final with Manchester City.
Our club captain picked up a calf problem in training on Friday and sat out the defeat to Everton at Goodison Park.
It remains to be seen whether he recovers in time for the Boxing Day clash with Chelsea but the prognosis is sounding more positive than it did.
“Auba is feeling much better and he was more positive yesterday than in the previous two days,” reported Arteta on Monday morning.
“He will have another scan in the next few days and we will see how quickly we can get him back in the team.
“But we know how important he is for us and he feels that responsibility and he is trying his best to be back fit as quickly as possible. For the rest, I don’t think we’re going to have any news today before training.”
Given the hectic schedule, you’d expect some rotation but it’s unlikely Arteta will go to the same lengths seen in the Europa League. That said, Reiss Nelson, absent for three games, and youngster Folarin Balogun are in contention to make the squad.
“They’re a possibility,” said the boss when quizzed on the duo.
“Let’s see how the boys are today. Auba is not fit for tomorrow, that’s for sure. He won’t be playing tomorrow so we will see who is available because we have a few doubts as well in other positions. We want to get together a very competitive team because we know the level of City and we want to win the game tomorrow.”
Having featured off the bench at Goodison Park, it looks likely that Gabriel Martinelli will step up his return from knee surgery with further minutes tomorrow evening.
While it’s obviously a boost to have the Brazilian as an option, the boss played down expectations that the teenager can single-handedly help the Gunners out of our funk.
“We cannot put that pressure [of being the club’s ‘saviour] on his shoulders,” said the boss.
“It’s not fair for him. He brings that enthusiasm that the fans can see because he’s got something special, a special energy every time he steps on that field. But remember that Gabi, what he’s done in the Premier League the time that he’s been with us is very limited. Let him develop, like we are doing with many other young kids that we have here.”
On the pressure facing Martinelli, he added: “Yes [there is] but it’s the same with many other young players that are probably taking more responsibility than perhaps they should do in this moment.
“It’s the squad that we have at the moment and what we have to manage. They have to try to do their best but I don’t think it’s fair to put all the pressure on them now as well.”